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07.05.2013 Feature Article

Has HYPREP The UNEP Recommended Funding For Ogoni Cleanup Or Not?

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As I write, no one is sure or aware if the Nigeria's Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) lacks or have the needed funds ($1 billion start-up money for Ogoni project and not entire Niger delta, which HYPREP covers) to implement the UNEP Assessment Report on Ogoni which cleanup is important part.

The last time I checked was when a report came out that the Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan has signed the embattled national budget thus approved the sourcing of funds from $hell, Agip, etc. for the Ogoni project. Prior to that, the Minister for Environment claimed what was holding the Ogoni project was the non-allocation of funds in the budget.

Meanwhile, the restoration of land and the people by way of cleanup and complete remediation, sustainable development and compensation is very important aspect of the Ogoni project, if serious meaning would be made of it.

But, of these back and forth talks from officials, neither government nor the one person's HYPREP management (Joi Nunieh Okunnu, who is an Ogoni is the only one known to be HYPREP-it's National Coordinator. No one else is known to be a member of HYPREP to my knowledge) has been able to tell the public whether this project has funding and who or how is it funded.

And if there is no funding, why so after this long whining period and so much oil money squandered and laundered daily by Nigerian officials-mostly politicians and the presidency singing and dancing in corruption?

The public has right to know about the situation of things so as to mounting pressure where needed-assuming Nigerian rulers/politicians have hearts that are moved by public opinions or actions.

As always said, open and honest communication is what works when planning and executing projects that affects the people. Pretending all is well with HYPREP and hiding the true position of things when nothing is in the positive for all to see is counterproductive, though synonymous with backward societies such as Nigeria.

In addition, I warned when Joi Nunieh Okunnu was given the HYPREP mandate, even though it isn't wrong rather proper for an Ogoni that is pro-Ogoni to be in charge or be close to the heads of operations in such project targeting Ogoni environment. Knowing Nigeria I suspected this move was aimed at calming down Ogonis as it can be said an Ogoni is in-charge yet, they spoiled things for her.

It's unfathomable and against all principles of best practice to create a new office (HYPREP) when older ones with some or little knowledge (for instance, National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) exist.

For a successful implementation of the Ogoni assessment and not the ethnic and national politics we've now. UNEP was ready and remains prepared to take this job with needed expertise. But because the mission isn't to bring about a successful implementation of the UNEP report as many suspects, HYPREP was hurriedly born.

Of course, HYPREP emerged when there was sufficient suspicion due to story-feeds from the presidency that Pres. Jonathan and his team weren't interested in implementing the UNEP report on Ogoni because it didn't cover the entire Niger delta, which include Ijaw ethnic community, Jonathan's ethnic group. Yet the UNEP environmental assessment mission was clear as was laid by Former Pres. Olusegun Obasanjo and followed through by the late Pres.

Yar'Adua who are both non-Niger deltans. So HYPREP only came when Jonathan became satisfied that his community's interests will be cover. That's, the jurisdiction of the National Coordinator of HYPREP becomes the entire Niger delta, even though the UNEP report is Ogoni specific and based on the hard work and blood sacrifice of Ogonis. HYPREP now extends whereas UNEP report and mandate could have been Ogoni alone, where it conducted the scientific research and not where no research has been done.

Well, this is Nigeria where research means nothing, but cutting and nailing as they know is what applies and may be the case in the Ogoni cleanup. The irony is that having deprived Ogoni of every good thing by Nigeria and its operators the only project meant for her survival has been diverted.

The time used to travel and making speeches and promises, saying what HYPREP is and not to Niger deltans, and traveling abroad to discuss Niger delta hydrocarbon pollution and restoration mandate that isn't the actual case, is allowing the deepening of contamination and overall suffering of the Ogoni people whom the UNEP assessment and report targets.

If Nigeria hasn't been successful handing a small scale disaster why do they think a broad Niger delta cleanup or restoration under HYPREP will work? The popular East-West road, for instance in Nigeria has been a death-trap for almost the life of the country's independence. Such politics and funds diversion as seen in the Ogoni project kept it so.

What will work in Ogoni case is a concentration on the UNEP report on Ogoni, achievement of remarkable success and the use of such experience to work in the larger Niger delta, having done similar environmental assessment and social, health impact studies on the case-by-case basis. No good thinking manager or government will use an assessment for one group to judge or operate on other groups without first assessing these other groups to understand their unique situation, even though same sickness.

The reality with the Ogoni project as I'm suspecting is a 97% probability for failure as forming HYPREP instead of using UNEP was and still is a red flag. As it stands, not only is HYPREP failing due to broad mandate and possible lack of funding, though it's some empty tankers of water in Eleme-Ogoni alone to show; a February 2013 announcement of its involvement with John Hopkins University professors in USA for health assessment in Ogoni and another partnership with an American university. The UNEP report hasn't been gazetted and made into law, which shall bind this government and other administrations, given the projected 30 years period of this project.

Also Ogoni hasn't been declared an environmental disaster zone and government isn't mobilizing its agencies, even though HYPREP has agreed to partner with NOSDRA, which does same work as the former-usual Nigeria's mentality of duplication and no real work will be done, and the world to help respond to this disaster. In the end Ogoni could be the scapegoat and victim.

The government/politicians and observers would claim an Ogoni was in-charge; and shall ask what Ogonis and the public did or said when nothing was done right. As a result Ogonis must not watch and allow government, $hell and others use one of their own to deceive them, calming them down and nothing done or done right. The Ogoni cleanup is, according to UNEP report the largest ever in the world.

This isn't a joke as this project will determine the safety of Ogoni from bad and contaminated water, bad air, Earthquakes and other dangerous disasters that are man-made or enhanced. This cleanup and the sustainability, human restoration's aspects will determine how Ogonis will live and return to their lifestyle of attachment to their land.

Therefore, Ogonis must stand up; their friends and public should help join them mobilize and apply the same pressure (not discriminate) they'd apply if and where a non-Ogoni is saddled with the tested work that Joi Nunieh Okunnu has.

Worst still Joi Nunieh Okunnu has chosen to keep the project and progress if any secret from Ogonis and the general public. This is dangerous considering that an Ogoni seems to be protecting the government and oil companies gambling and lying about this cleanup which is their life.

She claimed performance, which none has seen to date is what Ogonis want and not talks, showing off or media bliss. And also said her objective is to restore and empower those mostly affected, the women and children she claimed, in an attempt to segregate or apply the principle of discrimination where all Ogonis have been badly affected for over three decades.

I disagree with her because Ogonis who should participate fully in this project and the public have right to know what's happening, and so much so when this project directly affect Ogonis in every way imaginable.

Even though she's employed by the government and $hell, she also has a responsibility/duty to do the right things, inform Ogonis and general public, and doing so in all honesty and not hide anything from them.

This way she can communicate and translate her needs. That is where she need community help on a communal and simplistic or technical fronts to assist in the successful completion of her work assuming successful is the plan.

Her time as the National Coordinator of HYPREP and one from Ogoni deserves free hands and not government and corporate hindrance, but this can only happen when she's open, communicate properly and honestly and open her arms for community engagement or involvement and collaboration from others around the world. She has to tell the public, especially Ogonis if she's already has the $1 billion suggested bu UNEP as the start-up fund for the Ogoni cleanup and not Niger delta cleanup.

The money will increase if Jonathan is forcing work to cover other communities in Niger delta including his. She should disclose her challenges and breakthroughs-visit and engage the Ogoni people (her own people) and build all the operational bodies, facilities, water and soil treatment agents recommended in the UNEP report instead of opening an office in Rivers State capital-Port Harcourt, where no cleanup is recommended for now.

She needs to succeed in whatever short time she may have as the HYPREP boss since she might not be in charge of the body for the 30-year period of cleanup and restoration suggested by the UNEP report, which government/HYPREP claimed will be implemented, while also arguing that not everything in the report shall be followed.

Ben Ikari
Ben Ikari, © 2013

The author has 35 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: BenIkari

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